24 in Mouseland

Tommy Douglas was the Premier of Saskatchewan from 1944 to 1961, the leader of the first socialist government in North America, and the first national leader of the New Democratic Party in Canada. He worked to establish a government-run public health system in the province that became the model for Canada’s national health system. In 2004, voters in a nationally-broadcast contest voted him The Greatest Canadian.

Keifer Sutherland is easily-recognized as actor Donald Sutherland’s son, but his mother is actress Shirley Douglas, the daughter of Tommy Douglas. Keifer Sutherland provides the intro to this animated short set to a recording of a story his grandfather made famous.

At least in Canada.

Remaking Caine

Talking at The Horse Brass last night Russell sang a snippet of the theme from “Alfie” and we briefly discussed Jude Law’s remake of that and the critical reaction to his version of “Sleuth”. Russell suggested Law and George Clooney for a remake of “The Man Who Would Be King” as the next step (which brought me back to my desire to see a “Three Kings 2”) but the Caine movie I really want to see Law do next is “Zulu”. That should be a minefield of ethical problems.

Also discussed: Brat Pack remakes. John Carpenter’s movies are getting redone, why not John Hughes?

A Dollar In a Strange Land

What is going to be the effect of the dropping dollar on the cost of the war in Iraq? Not everything we’re paying for is produced or provided from the US or within Iraq. No wonder they’re going to need more money,


Sinclair Oil logo

Outside my motel window in Mitchell, South Dakota was a Sinclair Oil gas station, something I hadn’t seen for a long time since they don’t seem to have any presence in the Northwest.

Sinclair’s been around since 1916 and according to its web site, has used the dinosaur in marketing for more than seventy-five years.

Sinclair began development of the apatosaurus (brontosaurus) in its advertising, sales promotions, and product labels in 1930. The apatosaurus was registered as a Sinclair trademark in 1932. An exhibit at the 1933 Chicago Worlds Fair highlighted dinosaurs and established Sinclair as the company that featured the apatosaurus. Again in 1964 at the New York City Worlds Fair, Sinclair proudly displayed an exhibit featuring nine life-sized dinosaurs highlighting its unique association with the age of the dinosaur–an age representative of the beginning of the formation of crude oil.

It put me in mind of an animated cartoon ad that ran for years on TV in the ’70s — I believe it was one of Exxon’s — describing how biological material from long ago became oil through the intense heat and pressure of hundreds of millions of years (sorry, I can’t find it on YouTube). The sound the dinos made in that ad inspired me to do an imitation, variations of which I use for monster noises thirty years later.

But I wonder if in today’s anti-science climate in America whether a company would choose a dinosaur for its logo, or even whether a description of the process of how oil came to be would be possible in an ad. Or would any company that did something like that be attacked by religious conservatives for anti-Creationist views?

Girl holding Sinclair Oil blow-up dinosaur

We Don’t Torture

Australian philosopher John Passmore, from his book Science and It’s Critics, quoted in Carl Sagan’s The Demon-Haunted World: Science As a Candle In the Dark (which has a wealth of great quotes like this one in it):

The Spanish Inquisition sought to avoid direct responsibility for the burning of heretics by handing them over to the secular arm; to burn them itself, it piously explained, would be wholly inconsistent with its Christian principles. Few of us would allow the Inquisition thus easily to wipe its hands clean of bloodshed; it knew quite well what would happen.

George McGovern Broke My Camera (McGovern Conference, Part I)

McGovern Avenue street sign

I noticed as I was returning to/re-leaving Sioux Falls, South Dakota Monday night that there was a sign on the highway outside town mentioning that it was the hometown of Senator John Thune, the Republican who beat former Democratic Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle in 2004. I may have missed it due to the lateness of the hour, but I didn’t see any such sign outside of Mitchell.

On the campus of Dakota Wesleyan University, however, it’s nigh on impossible to miss McGovern’s name, even if you’re not headed for a conference in his honor. It’s a small campus with fewer than 800 students; smaller than Reed College was twenty years ago when I was there. The grounds are flat and open, and one of the largest buildings at DWU is the McGovern Library,which has his name in big metal letters at the top on two sides of one corner. It was dedicated and opened just last year.

As I was walking across McGovern Avenue toward the Sherman Center where the conference was to be held, I recognized Bruce Miroff, the author of the recently-published The Liberals’ Moment: The McGovern Insurgency and the Identity Crisis of the Democratic Party, and introduced myself.

DWU President Robert Duffett opened the conference, welcoming what looked to me like between 150 and 200 people. The school choir sang a tribute to Eleanor McGovern, who met her husband on the DWU campus and who died early this year. Then Donald Simmons, the Director of the McGovern Center for Leadership and Public Service kicked off the show.

A panel of 1972 McGovern campaign staffers discussed how their youthful association with the Senator had influenced their lives and their careers. Mary Fifield told of how she had been inspired to leave college and join McGovern’s team in New Hampshire and Massachusetts despite being just weeks short of her degree. Teresa Petrovic worked as the campaign headquarters’ receptionist and has recently decided to return to public service work in Washington. The panel struck a refrain that echoed throughout the day, about the pride most McGovern workers feel in looking back at their work in 1971 and 1972, compared to the attitudes of people on other campaigns since then (both Democratic and Republican), but especially the 1972 Nixon campaign workers. I certainly believe the idealism is there, as well as a willingness to talk about the job they did, but I wonder if perhaps it’s just that nobody’s asking the Nixon people about their pride. Maybe they chortle about it whenever they aren’t screwing over new elections.

The first speaker was historian Donald Critchlow, who’s made chronicling the conservative movement his specialty. He started off with a comment on the unorthodox success of the early McGovern campaign which drew applause, but set the tone for the rest of his talk by following that by saying it would probably be the last he would receive. His presentation was titled after his latest book: “The Conservative Ascendancy: How the GOP Right Made Political History” but it was difficult to tell from his (at times accurate) portrayal of the Democrats as unable (or unwilling) to capitalize on chinks in the Republican message whether the right’s ascendency should be credited to Republican organizational skills or the Democrats choice of issues (gay rights, abortion, etc.) Critchlow laid the blame for the introduction of “values” and “character” directly on the 1972 McGovern campaign. Seemingly, everything the Democrats did since “The ’60s” was done to alienate the American populace which is “center right”, etc. etc. etc.

In the Q&A session after his talk, I asked Critchlow what part the right’s willingness to use extra-legal means against their opponents might have in the equation. He slid away from the question with a “politics is a dirty business” type of answer, then went back into the cant about how the problem with the Democrats is that they’re not enough like the Republicans, but seeing as we were at an event honoring a man whose opponent in the presidential campaign was forced to resign because of his abuse of power in using government agencies to harass and intimidate political opponents, and who had even planned to plant McGovern literature in the apartment of an attempted assassin, I didn’t feel Critchlow had answered my question. When he got to the last part of his answer, where he once again recited the litany of Democratic programs that had turned America to the Republicans, I added “and civil rights”, something that seemed conspicuously absent from his list, but one which certainly was recognized by Lyndon Johnson as a divisive issue and one that has been used repeatedly by the GOP as a cow bell for a certain type of voter.

There was a weird electrical vortex in Mitchell. I wasn’t able to get a signal on my cell phone despite the fact that it’s supposed to be in Sprint’s coverage area, and the minute after I got a shot of myself with the Senator, my camera stopped saving pictures to memory.

More from the McGovern Conference later.

Darrel Plant and George McGovern at the McGovern Conference, 6 November 2007

Comin’ On Home

The McGovern Legacy Museum is just off the entrance of the McGovern Library, and it’s a very nicely-done project, with a number of video screens, lots of memorabilia, and one poster on the wall that caught my eye from the 1972 presidential campaign: an image by editorial cartoonist William Sanderson titled “Comin’ On Home”. At the bottom of the poster was “Oregonians for McGovern, P.O. Box 4242, Portland, Oregon 97208. Jean Dale, Treasurer.”

And, of course, a union printer bug.

1972 McGovern campaign poster from Oregon

Wide Stance

Coming back from South Dakota, my flight (Northwest) landed at gate A11 of Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport. I got out and asked the desk clerk which gate I needed to go to for the flight to Portland (also Northwest), and he told me: “F10. You’ve got a long way to go.”

Indeed he was right. Because right about then the tram connecting the concourses in the airport broke down or something and everyone was forced to hoof it. Just to rub it in, MSP — like a lot of malls — has an indoor walking route, a 1.4 mile loop between the C, D, and G concourses. A “20 – 40 minute heart-healthy walk” as they call it. Well, since the A concourse sticks off the end of C (and the loop doesn’t include all of C) I got to do something roughly equivalent to the loop along with my luggage. My heart thanks me.

But as I walked through most of the terminal, I completely forgot to look for the famous Northstar Crossing-area restroom where Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID) was popped last June for lewd conduct. I can’t believe that slipped my mind.

MSP restroom entrances

Nevertheless here is a photo of the entrance to a pair of restrooms at MSP. I used one of the men’s stalls there. There seemed to be plenty of room for me and my luggage in the stall (it was quite deep) and even though I’m not a small guy (just ask the other two not-so-small guys on row 25 with me on the flight to Portland), I had a hard time imagining how anyone could possibly manage to get their foot into the next stall under standard operations.

There was a strand of toilet paper on the floor. I tend to be more on the side of fastidious than fussy; unlike Sen. Craig I decided I could stand leaving it there rather than touch someone else’s potentially used toilet paper, and left it for the cleanup crew.

Dirty Money

Maybe it’s just me, but if I was a Senate candidate who believed that waterboarding was torture and that Attorney General nominee Michael Mukasey didn’t satisfy my conscience that he would not only consider it as such but that he would vigorously investigate and prosecute any allegations of torture by whatever methods used to interrogate prisoners who are (or have been) in US custody, I just might not take calls from Democratic Senate Campaign Committee chairman Sen. Chuck “Yea!” Schumer, even if he’d promised me bags of cash.

At least not for a while.

The Meteor

The first thing I saw when I walked off the plane in Sioux Falls, South Dakota was a giant banner reading “WELCOME HUNTERS!” And there had been a lot of guys in camo at the Minneapolis airport. So I guess it’s that season.

When I picked up my rental car, the clerk asked me if I was in town for hunting or business. I mentioned I was off to Mitchell for the McGovern Conference and that seemed to stump him so I said it was sort of business.

His instructions to Interstate 90 seemed simple, but they went against the signs, and I ended up driving ten miles out into the country following I90 West signs only to get to a ramp that was closed because of construction. I circled back around and got on the highway, thinking that if I was just a little less cautious I could pull off onto the side of the highway and just turn around, because the construction had narrowed the freeway down to one lane in each direction running right next to each other. Instead, I went all the way back into Sioux Falls and got going the right direction. That only took forty-five minutes and didn’t put the trip off to an auspicious start.

On the other hand, once I was back past the construction, the freeway was straight and relatively flat. After noticing my speed creep up to 90 at one point (90, in the dark, in 25-degree weather, maybe not the smartest thing), I kept it down to the legal 75 and made it to Mitchell finally about a quarter to midnight.

Twelve miles out of town, right at 11:30, a big meteor flashed straight ahead of me. I’m reading Carl Sagan’s The Demon-Haunted World: Science As a Candle In the Dark right now, so I’m not going to make anything portentous out of it, but it was rather cool to see.